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<     Episode 1545: See, Spot, Run     >

Episode 1545: See, Spot, Run


Normally, if you're running a tight ship as the GM, you wouldn't roll dice so obviously and then say that the PCs don't notice anything. Unfortunately this can be hard to achieve in practice, because as soon as players see/hear the GM rolling dice, they know something is up.

One method to disguise this a bit better is to frequently roll dice behind your GM screen for no reason at all. Well, the reason is actually to lull the players into a sense of security that you just constantly roll dice for no reason, so that when a secret die roll suddenly is significant and important, they just ignore it like all the other rolls.

This is pretty much the opposite of the other tried and true GM technique of suddenly and conspicuously rolling die for no reason, deliberately making it really obvious that you've just rolled a bunch of dice. And when the players ask you what the dice roll was for, you say, "Uh... nothing."

Both of these are great techniques. The main problem being that you can't use both of them at the same time.

There is a huge difference between, "you don't see anything", and, "<roll> <roll> <roll> you don't see anything".

Other than that, how in the heck can you look at panel three (or is that panel two?), and call that a radio?

Otherwise, all I can say is I think we're about to have the firefight that we started this comic with.

— Keybounce

Failed spot checks are scary things.

They're also one of the biggest causes of meta-gaming.

In D&D, you know when you've missed something. Dice roll and the DM tells you "you don't see anything". Most players at this point will start acting cautious, rolling continuous spot checks and searching the area very carefully.

In real life, you just carry on with whatever it is you're doing. You very rarely know that you didn't see something, so you have no reason to "be careful".

In this case, Cassian would have seen that little dude on the radio, and then went on doing his thing. But, because of those rolls, Annie is now concerned about something.

Of course, you can't really blame players for this. IC/OOC separation is a hard thing, and when you're worried, your character is probably going to end up worried too. It's easy not to meta-game (if you care to) on things like "I know this DM likes to hide monsters in locked chests" because that's simply a piece of information you can choose to disregard. And OOC knowledge like how to build a campfire is easy to simply not use.

But once your character is in danger, and you're worried about them, it's hard to let go and acknowledge that they would have no reason to suspect a trapdoor in front of the bookshelf and because of that, they might die. Emotions are a lot harder to ignore than a page you read in the Monstrous Manual.

This annotation has become a lot heavier than I was intending... but I've seen some hostility and hysteria around players using OOC/meta knowledge to save their characters, and it's important to remember that losing a character is hard. Especially if it's a long-running campaign. So even if that's "not how you're supposed to play", it's an understandable temptation.

I really shouldn't end this on a such a downer though...

Maybe a joke about that alien looking like a fleshy, baby version of The Thing?

Or how about pointing out that it makes no sense for this military tank to use all-terrain tracks when there's hover technology available?

— aurilee


Cassian: While we're talking, I'm keeping my eyes peeled.
GM: Your keen powers of observation detect a tank rumbling through the marketplace, escorted by a platoon of clone troopers.
Cassian: We stay cool and watch it pass.
GM: <roll> You see a diminutive alien talking into a radio.
Cassian: Okay.
GM: <roll> And ... wait, no. {Cassian doesn't spot a suspicious guy on a rooftop}
GM: <roll> Hmmm. {or someone aiming a weapon at the tank}
GM: <roll> ... aaand nothing else. {or someone else tossing a grenade}
Cassian: Ohhh crap.

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Published: Thursday, 07 September, 2017; 03:11:01 PDT.
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